Study Abroad Corner - Masako Yamamoto in Beijing, China (Fall 2008)

My name is Masako Yamamoto.  I am a junior at SUA and currently in Beijing, China for my Study Abroad program. Today, I would like to share a little bit about my experience so far in China.

At first, I was not really excited about studying abroad in China.  Coming from Japan, my study abroad experience began when I arrived at SUA and I was unsure about whether China would bring me anything new. 

On August 26th of this year, I left Narita for Beijing with little excitement.  As I sat on the plane, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea WHY I was going to China.  But it was too late.  My journey had already begun.

In Beijing, I forgot all of my worries as I began to immerse myself in a culture totally different from both Japan and the U.S.  I was surprised when the average Chinese store owner would talk to me in Japanese, English, Korean, and other multiple languages.  They would call to me, Miss, so cute!  On the other hand, I was struck with awe at the Great Wall and the Forbidden Castle.  All of these sights and sounds are new to me, and despite the culture shock, it was exciting.  

However, after I started attending classes and living with a Chinese roommate, again the same question started spinning in my mind: WHY AM I IN CHINA?  I felt like I did not have a specific goal or purpose.  Bothered by this question, I could not actively dedicate myself to studying Chinese, talking with my roommate or experiencing Chinese culture. 

Nevertheless, through exchanging emails with my friends on campus, I gradually realized how fortunate I was to be able to study a different culture and social system first hand, rather than only through textbooks.  I was given the opportunity to experience life in a developing nation for the first time and realized I should live life to the fullest while I was in China. 

 Staying in China is completely different from studying at SUA.  At SUA, I can always feel the warmth of our Soka family.  It is so much easier to unite and communicate with other students and friends because many of us share the same SUA principles.  Yet here in China, I have to be courageous enough to open my heart to people and others who have never heard of Soka, and communicate with them in another language.  These challenges have led me to change my question from why am I in China? to Given this great opportunity, what can I do in China as an SUA student?  Now, I ask myself everyday, what can I do and learn today?  Asking myself this question encourages me to do the best on everything all the time because I am reminded that I have to cherish these three and a half months in China.

It has been already a month since I started living in Beijing.  I don't know what will happen to me in the next two and a half months.  However, I have already started appreciating this Study Abroad program, as it has enabled me to reflect upon myself and experience a different world.  Although I cannot specifically explain how I have changed, I feel it.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my SUA classmates in the program because they are always there by my side, supporting me.  I also appreciate my parents, SUA, donors, my friends on campus, and the staff.  Being in China has been such a big thing for me.  I really hope that I can proudly report to my friends how much I have grown and learned from this experience when I return.  Thank you very much!